The MP who heads the parliamentary body scrutinising Britain’s counter-terrorism laws addressed a rally at which a plea for support for suicide bombers was broadcast, The Times has learnt.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, addressed the annual Tamil rally in the ExCel centre in East London.
He spoke after participants watched a televised address by Velupillai Prabhakaran, the commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist organisation banned by the Home Office.
Mr Vaz, the MP for Leicester East, was joined by a fellow Labour MP, Joan Ryan. Their presence drew an angry response from the Sri Lankan High Commission, which released a statement claiming that the event was a “clear violation of the UK terrorism laws”.
The rally was organised by British-based Tamils on the birthday of the Tamil Tiger leader. In his address, Mr Vaz told an audience of more than 10,000 people: “I understand the demands made by some for an independent Tamil state. They will grow, unless there is justice.”
The arch-Europhile does not, however, feel the same way about demands for an independent Britain.
Ms Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, told the rally: “I am sorry to have to remember the 70,000 innocent Tamils who lost their lives in the struggle. We must pursue the aims and values for which they lost their lives.”
Earlier in the day, Mr Prabhakaran, in full military dress and in front of the LTTE flag, appeared on six giant screens calling for “the entire Tamil-speaking world to rise up for the liberation of Tamil Eelam”.
In a reference to the LTTE’s use of suicide bombers, he said: “The immeasurable dedication and sacrifice of our heroes is delivering a message to the Sinhala nation.”
The Sri Lankan High Commission accused Mr Vaz yesterday of being “partisan to a proscribed terrorist group” and claimed that the event was organised by apologists for terrorists. “This event was organised by a front organisation of a terrorist group for fundraising and propaganda purposes,” a spokesman said.
When told of the contents of the LTTE leader’s speech and of the criticisms of the Sri Lankan Government, Mr Vaz, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, responded: “I’m not really interested in [the contents of Mr Prabhakaran's speech].
“I was there to deliver a message from the all-party group, which is what I do. I was there to deliver a message from my constituents. I have many Tamil people in my constituency.” Mr Vaz said he was unaware that the Tamil leader was going to speak.
Ms Ryan also said that she did not realise that Mr Prabhakaran had spoken.
It would not have been difficult for them to work out that he might speak, however:
The date of the rally, November 27, Heroes Day, is linked with the LTTE. It falls on the birthday of Mr Prabhakaran, and it is marked by Tamil Tiger sympathisers around the world. Mr Prabhakaran’s speech from the Sri Lankan jungle has been televised at every previous UK Heroes Day.So, either Vaz and Ryan agreed to speak at this event, without bothering to find out anything whatsoever about it, or they are lying (and you can't imagine Keith Vaz doing that, can you?). Either way, it doesn't reflect particularly well on them.
But then, what has Keith Vaz ever done that did reflect well on him?
Postscript: This is not the first time that Vaz has been associated with representatives of the Tamil Tigers. As documented by the Green Arrow back in July, he has in the past campaigned to have the UK-wide ban currently imposed on the political wing of the organisation lifted.